The Breakfast Table

The Rash Hits Home

Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are indeed amazing. They and a couple of other bloggers are now virtually daily habits for me. They’re good at blogging because they’re smart and intellectually honest and have a taste for mischief-making and, for my money, because neither is completely predictable—this last being a function of the first three. And they’re good at it because they so obviously enjoy doing it, which requires a gleeful, all-consuming devotion to reading media and commenting on it. I can imagine the cracklike addictive appeal of that, but I can’t give myself over to it full-time, since (like crack) I think it would crowd out everything else. Plus I find that I consume far less media these days than I did even a few years ago. This triannual exhibition-game version of blogging that we’re performing here, being short-term and explicitly conversational, is as much of it as I think I want.

A bird trapped in your chimney is an anxiety dream? How mild and sweet. Don’t your anxiety dreams ever come in more terrifying and gothic forms?

Erving Goffman, Socrates, and Andy Warhol—and, of course, de Tocqueville. I’ve read Democracy in America cover to cover recently and was once again astounded, to the point of gasping out loud, by his acuity and prescience.

I was reading de Tocqueville because, as I think I’ve told you, I’m working on a novel set in 19th-century America. And speaking of 19th-century America and Oscar acceptance speeches, I read in Variety last week that you’re going to direct a movie based on a Larry McMurtry novel? How interesting! Which one? Starring whom? And so on. Does that mean you’re all finished with your musical play about Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy?

This 9/11 blame-shifting between the FBI and the CIA is indeed a fascinating spectacle, and it reminds me of Watergate, whose unearthing was (as I recall) driven in significant measure by internecine struggles between the FBI and CIA in 1972 to ‘74. Funny that two weeks from today is the 30th anniversary of the break-in. Did you know that John Dean has said he’s going to announce in two weeks who he thinks Deep Throat is? Do you think he knows?

“Right after the Oklahoma City bombing, two men were arrested who’d followed McVeigh’s exact route prior to the bombing…. I’ve always suspected they were federal agents, tailing McVeigh, but just enough behind the curve to miss what was actually up.”

I am by temperament not a conspiracist, but I’ll sign on to your suspicions, especially given the revelations of the last few weeks. And, now that I think about it, given the fact that it was the FBI that “forgot” until the week before McVeigh’s execution they had 3,000 pages of documents that they should have given to his defense lawyers during his trial.

How disproportionately Roman Catholic are FBI agents, by the way? Robert Hansen, the Soviet spy, was of course a devout Catholic. I don’t want to make any unwarranted over-generalizations here, but isn’t the pedophilia crisis all about the Church’s mutually reinforcing cultures of insularity and secretiveness and betrayal and mismanagement? Which seem to be the sources of the FBI’s problems, too. (Speaking of the Church, ask me sometime about the awesome private VIP tour of the Vatican we took last summer—not because of any VIP-ness, but because we paid a guy $1,000.)

One of my junior-high-school daughters has in the last couple of weeks developed a tiny, mysterious rash, although it doesn’t itch, unlike the Times Magazine’s rashes. And she seems by all obvious reckonings pretty much unaffected by 9/11—she even went to a Blink 182 concert last weekend with a friend with whom she had a falling out last fall for being too pro-war.

This is a bad season for women? I’ll let you tell me how and why, but I was struck by the fact that the two whistle-blowing heroes of the season are heroines—Coleen Rowley, at the FBI in Minneapolis, and Sherron Watkins at Enron. I’m generally as disinclined to make gender-based proclamations of virtue as I am to believe in conspiracies, but here you’ve got a couple of apparently genuine white-Republican-men conspiracies revealed by a couple of brave (or, in Watkins’ case, brave-ish) middle-aged professional women in middle America. Coincidence?

As you say, it’s a beautiful day in New York, contrary to the forecast (thus making the sunshine even sweeter), and I’m going to head out into it for a little while.